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Bail Refused Jailed Environmental Author in Russia

  • Brian Whitmore



St. Petersburg, July 16 (RFE/RL) -- A St. Petersburg court has refused -- for the fourth time since March -- to grant bail to an environmentalist held on suspicion of treason for publishing sensitive data on nuclear contamination.

Judge Olga Krivosheyeva of the Oktyabrsky Region civil court said she refused bail because the St. Petersburg environmentalist, Alexander Nikitin, poses a flight risk and because the charges are grave. Nikitin is beginning his sixth month in jail. The law requires that he be charged or freed by October.

The proceedings, held Friday, were in closed court because of the alleged classified nature of case materials.

Nikitin's defense lawyers said that a number of proposed guarantors of Nikitin's apppearance at future court proceedings offered surety. These included Russian Federation Duma Deputy Yuly Rybakov; local human rights groups, Citizen's Watch and Soldiers Mothers Organization; and the Norwegian environmental group Bellona with whom Nikitin was working at the time of his arrest. Under normal Russian criminal procedures, Nikitin would be freed on bail equivalent to not more than 10,000 U.S. dollars. The defense said that the judge did not comment on the proposed guarantors.

Defense team lawyers have issued several complaints in the past alleging FSB pressure on the military and civil judges who have turned down the bail appeals. They said that they believed Friday's hearing was fairly conducted but that the judge's decision was wrong.

The Federal Security Service arrested Nikitin in February on suspicion of espionage, for allegedly co-authoring a report with Bellona concerning nuclear contamination by the Russian Navy on the Murmansk region Kola Penisula in the Arctic Far North.

FSB investigators gave a statement to the press Saturday saying they have established who within the navy furnished classified information. But contacted on Monday, they would not elaborate. The prosecution has said it is seeking to implicate Bellona in the case.
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